Basuyouy Mamdouh Ebaid, 44, was arrested in February after police said he sold liquor to minors. Officers then discovered he was listed as a possible terrorist because he was allegedly overheard praising Osama bin Laden and suicide bombers.

He has not been charged with any terrorism-related crimes, but federal officials want him ordered out of the country because he pleaded guilty in 1999 to purchasing less than 20 grams of marijuana for his own use.

US Immigration Judge Kenneth Hurewitz ruled last week that Ebaid's assertion he had no ties to terrorism was credible.

Citing US State Department reports about Egypt's history of torturing terror suspects, Hurewitz wrote in his ruling that "it is more likely than not that he would be tortured by the Egyptian government or its agents if removed to Egypt."

Surveillance

"It is more likely than not that he would be tortured by the Egyptian government or its agents if removed to Egypt"

Kenneth Hurewitz,
US Immigration Judge

Hurewitz said letters from Ebaid's friends in Egypt showed that his family had been questioned about him and were being monitored by authorities, The Miami Herald newspaper reported.

Ebaid, who came to the United States 21 years ago on a student visa, has been held at a detention centre since his arrest. A request he filed three years for legal residency is still pending.

A message left early on Thursday for Ebaid's attorney was not immediately returned.

If the US Department of Homeland Security does not appeal Hurewitz's 1 September ruling, Ebaid could be released.